Monthly Archives: December 2008

Emilie’s 2008 Best List

What a crazy year this has been. It’s the year that my big appetite for music became voracious and I sought out friends and resources to feed it. It’s the year that I “discovered” audio books as a natural result of driving for work – a lot. It’s the year I didn’t go to the theater as much as I used to, but everything came to DVD so much quicker. It’s the year I hoped to finish my book. It’s the year I started this blog.

This is a very personal best list, so the things that I’m highlighting as my favorites of 2008 may not have been released in 2008, just discovered by me in this year that’s soon to be past.

Books – 2008 is the year I read more nonfiction, romance and thriller than ever before, not to mention almost all of Jennifer Weiner and Jennifer Crusie, Spiderwick and Neverland and a lot of David Sedaris. Out of the almost 150 books I’ve read this year, my 15 favorites in roughly the order I read them:
1. His Dark Materials (3) Philip Pullman
2. Gregor and the Code of Claw, Suzanne Collins
3. When a Man Loves a Weapon (this will be released in 2009), Toni McGee Causey
4. Things I’ve Learned from Women Who’ve Dumped Me, Ed. Ben Karlin
5. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (about halfway through the year now), Junot Diaz
6. The Rescue Artist, Edward Dolnick
7. The Ruby Key, Holly Lisle
8. To Kill a Mockingbird (finally read this!), Harper Lee
9. Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician, Daniel Wallace
10. Calumet City, Charlie Newton
11. Finn, Jon Clinch
12. A Very Long Engagement, Sebastien Japrisot
13. Special Topics in Calamity Physics, Marisha Pessl
14. Unaccustomed Earth, Jhumpa Lahiri
15. The Wolfman, Nicholas Pekearo

Notables: Continued reading some of my favorite series – the “Alice” books by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, Louise Rennison’s Georgia Nicholson books, and Fourth Comings by Megan McCafferty. Also was blown away by a trio of historical romance writers – Gaelen Foley, Sherry Thomas and Suzanne Enoch, who gloriously re-invent the genre and write freaking well. Agnes and the Hitman and Faking It made me laugh myself hoarse. And I’ve been crazy about the Twilight series, of course, really impressed with how things wrapped up in Breaking Dawn.

Movies – I used to go to a movie by myself every Sunday, but that habit sadly went away. However, as a three year + member of Netflix, I still saw over 100 movies this year (and I did get to the theater some, of course). I’m going to try to approximate the order I saw them in.
1. Stardust
2. Once
3. Juno
4. Shoot ‘Em Up
5. Across the Universe
6. Wanted
7. Live Free or Die Hard
8. Dear Frankie
9. I’m Not There
10. Persepolis
11. Dark Knight
12. My Blueberry Nights
13. The Brave One
14. Penelope
15. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
16. Mamma Mia!
17. Wall*E – in some ways, my favorite of the year
18. Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist
19. Twilight
20. I Could Never Be Your Woman
21. Rachel Getting Married
22. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Notables: Much, much better than I’d heard/you’d think – Speed Racer, Good Luck Chuck and The Cutting Edge 3. 21 and Atonement almost made my list, so I guess that makes me a big James McAvoy fan.

TV – This was the year my t.v. became largely decorative. When I forgot how to hook the cables and wires back up after Gustav and relied almost entirely on watching t.v. on my computer. But the shows I love, I love all the more for it. No particular order here.
1. How I Met Your Mother
2. Bones (NOT happy it’s moving to Thursdays)
3. So You Think You Can Dance (Cat Deely’s the bomb, Joshua wasn’t my fav and we need DVD)
4. Survivor (yes, I still love this show)
5. In Plain Sight
6. Top Chef
7. Moonlight (NOT happy this got canceled)
8. Pushing Daisies (NOT happy this got canceled)

Notables: Big Bang Theory surprises me, whenever I manage to catch it, with how funny it is.

Music -This was the year of music. I’ve never been such an avid music listener and collector.
Singles –
1. Wagon Wheel, Old Crow Medicine Show (most listened to song in my iTunes)
2. Forever in Blue Jeans, Jason Castro (he wasn’t my favorite, but this stuck in my head)
3. Toxic, Yael Naim (cover of Britney, haunting and freaky)
4. Fake Is the New Real, Alice Smith
5. Johnny and June, Heidi Newfield
6. Be My Husband, Lisa Hannigan and Damien Rice
7. So What, Pink
8. Another Way to Die, Alicia Keyes and Jack White
9. American Boy, Estelle and Kanye
10. Just Like a Woman, Charlotte Gainsbourg
11. Holding Out for a Hero, Frou Frou
12. Are You Strong Enough to Be My Man, Sheryl Crow
13. You Got Growing Up to Do, Patty Griffin and Joshua Radin
14. Echo, Cyndi Lauper
15. Comes Love, Billie Holiday
16. Whatever Lola Wants, Ella Fitzgerald
17. Love Song, Sara Bareilles
18. See You Again, Miley Cyrus (say what you want, but this song is catchy and cool)
20. Missed Me, Dresden Dolls
19. Hide and Seek, Imogen Heap
20. Arms of a Woman, Amos Lee
21. Lilac Wine, Katie Melua
22. Do I Move You, Nina Simone
23. Hurt, Johnny Cash

CDs –
1. Across the Universe soundtrack (oh glorious TV Carpio, put out a cd already! Dana Fuchs!)
2. Juno soundtrack
3. Once soundtrack
4. Acid Tongue, Jenny Lewis
5. Volume 1, She & Him
6. Black Snake Moan soundtrack

Performers, period –
1. Patty Griffin – I’m delirious over Patty Griffin
2. Jenny Lewis
3. Lucinda Williams
4. Emmylou Harris
5. Allison Moorer
6. The White Stripes, Jack White notably
7. The Dresden Dolls
8. Roisin Murphy
9. Katie Herzig
10. Sugarland
11. Krista Detor

Notables: My love for Nina Simone, Johnny Cash, The Magnetic Fields, Cake and The Beatles, always vibrant, has been renewed. I grew to really appreciate Kanye West (though my first love for him came after his infamous quote after Katrina). And I learned that, as amusing as I find it when my neighbor M. sings the lyrics to “Ding, Ding, Dong,” I am NOT a fan of Gunther.

Websites – These are the websites I checked every day in 2008, once I knew about them!
1. Post Secret
2. I Am Fuel, You Are Friends
3. Living With Music – writers blog about music!
4. GalleyCat – how could I leave this one off?
5. Wikipedia
6. imdb
7. cdbaby
8. Amazon
9. Craigslist
10. YouTube

My Favorite Things – What I’ve been loving this year
1. Favorite Home Away from Home – Cheers, my coffeeshop
2. Friends – you know who you are and likely, you’ve introduce me to a lot of great music and food this year. I love you for it, this year and all years.
3. Family – for the pictures, the drama and the support.
4. Local Music – The Zydepunks, The New Orleans Bingo! Show, Loose Marbles and Gal Holiday
5. Food – the roast beef po’boy at Parkway just may be my favorite thing I’ve eaten this year
6. Lessons – dancing, parallel parking, how to be a better writer (friends again, thank you)
7. Libraries – Nola and BR, so very excited about having multiple library cards
8. Writing – NaNoWriMo, PerNoWriMo, Write or Die, Jamey
9. Epiphany – being excited and finding others who’re also excited about the same things.
10. City – New Orleans. Of course and always.

That’s it, Emilie’s Top List for 2008. Enjoy. Argue. Applaud. Whatever. 🙂

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Lazy last day of the year afternoon

I won’t call them resolutions (cause that’s just asking for trouble and, usually, failure), but there are a lot of things I want to change and accomplish in 2009. I’m excited.

So on this last day of 2008, let me post a couple of things that please and amuse me (my Top of 2008 list will be up later, just for you).

First, I adore this short piece about a 5 year old chef with a television show. I sent a link of it to a few of my favorite people and Mamma Mia! wrote back in an email: “I would probably give it a test run. He looks cute. Your dad and I watched that angry chef that goes to restaurants and helps them turn them around and the chef acted like a 2 year old most of the time.” Which made me laugh so hard I scared a few people. I have to assume she’s talking about Gordon Ramsey.

Checking out Living With Music today, I’m reminded of how much Norah Vincent rocks. A while back, I read her Self-Made Man and I continue to believe that every American man needs to read this book. Also, women and non-Americans. But, having met quite a few guys with Peter Pan syndrome who struggle to know how they’re supposed to be MEN in this day and age, I think they need to read a book about how a woman managed being a man for a year. We’re all a bit confused these days about what it means to be a woman or a man, to be ourselves and our genders. It helps that Norah Vincent’s a very good writer. (I met her when she came to LSU to promote S-MM, but I’m not posting the picture, sorry). Here’s my favorite part of her LWM playlist: “Here Comes the Sun, Nina Simone. I had to put Nina on this list, because, to my mind, her voice, her music, is proof of the existence of God. She makes me feel less alone in the world, which is why, even though she’s usually singing the lowest of the low down dirty blues, I feel better when I listen to her. Her cover of this Beatles classic is just about the only even vaguely upbeat song she sings that isn’t about sin, heartbreak, injustice or all of the above. Still, be warned, she’s not for the unalloyed. This is a long-steeped melancholic’s brand of sweet tart, so don’t try this at home. There’s always a bit of bite to the sugar in Nina’s bowl but, for my money, that just makes the pleasure last longer.” Looking forward to reading her new book, Voluntary Madness.

And we can’t forget GalleyCat and their Year in Publishing (wish, wish, wish, there was one link I could give you for all of them, but here’s January and December, just to get you started).

Look for the Top of 2008 List later today…

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The Curious Case…

The other evening, I saw The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which I enjoyed a lot. Somehow, in everything I read about the movie (and one of my friends from FD4 worked on it), I never found out that Katrina features in it. That’s not necessarily a spoiler. But I will say, the way Katrina happened in Benjamin Button is similar to how I want it to take place in my book. I was fascinated by the locations of the movie and was pretty convinced that Queenie’s retirement house was (at least in part) the “wedding cake house” on St. Charles. Well, I went and read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story and yes, they’re nothing alike. Nothing. They pretty much just have a title in common. I prefer the movie, but then I’ve never been a big F. Scott fan, so I may be prejudiced. It is fascinating to me how a roughly 20-page short story written at the beginning of one century can be the genesis of a film so evocative of the beginning of the next century. Check this out if you want to read a discussion of the short story and movie.

From wordsmith’s word of the day today: “There is only one difference between a madman and me. The madman thinks he is sane. I know I am mad.” –Salvador Dali [Word of the Day]

And to recycle some stuff from Christmas Eve that I never posted:

My horoscope ( Your imagination cannot be contained by traditional rituals and safe family activities. No matter what’s happening on the surface, you have a metaphysical ticket to ride as the Moon moves through your 12th House of Spirituality. Make a commitment to be present for holiday festivities, while also keeping an eye on your inner journey.

Adem’s 208 best songs of 2008 was my Christmas present to myself. It helped me discover some bands I’d never even heard of. Check it out, it has links to the songs on YouTube, MySpace, etc. Here’s some music I’ve been liking (from the list and also recommended when I watched the links).

Crying Blood, VV Brown (Adem’s #1, not as scary as it sounds, really fun and up-tempo)

No Can Do, Sugababes

A hysterical parody of Britney’s Womanizer.

A bit scattered, but hope you enjoy.

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I think this is really cool

Five female writers on the “Thinking Man’s Sexiest” list. (Yes, yes, GalleyCat).

Hope everybody had a wonderful Christmas and is anticipating a glorious year ahead.

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Catching up

So the 9th Annual Spaghetti Christmas Dinner went off without a hitch, thanks to everyone who celebrated with me. Next year, we’ll have to do it up even better to commemorate a decade of spaghetti and friends. I’ll put together an album of pictures from all the s’getti dinners, I think and have that out for everyone to see. What began in a dorm room at LSU and just took place in an apartment in New Orleans is now a tradition going strong.

There are a lot of things I’ve been meaning to talk about. One is my growing appreciation for Barack Obama, my increasing delight that his inauguration is coming up. What’s to be so excited about? If for nothing else, I’m thrilled that our incoming president not only values reading and books, but is already a published author. I just finished listening to Audacity of Hope, read by Obama, and I’m looking forward to seeing him accomplish the things he discusses there – though it’ll take time and continued support. He has big ideas and big hopes for this country and I can’t believe it, but I finally have confidence in a politician.

Now, hoping that Obama and Oprah and continue to help the publishing industry (and the economy) make a comeback, here’s a plethora of humorous, terrifying, and informative links about these scary times in The Industry:

Which creative writing programs produce the “best” writers? (GalleyCat)
Publish your rejection letters. (GalleyCat)
This pisses me off, wish I wasn’t so jealous of a nine year old. (GalleyCat)
Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s new book. (GalleyCat)
The self-destructing poem. (GalleyCat)
Best American Short Stories will include online writing. (GalleyCat)
And online journalism is now eligible for the Pulitzer Prize. (GalleyCat)
Y.A. too sexy? (GalleyCat)
Elizabeth Alexander to read at Obama’s inauguration. (GalleyCat)

I honestly do read something other than GalleyCat, but they’re usually the ones I want to link to most. Is there a prize for that?

So what I’ve been loving lately: Barack Obama and his books, Krista Detor , Special Topics in Calamity Physics (I really wanted to hate this book, but I just can’t – it’s one of my favorites now) and Unaccustomed Earth, which I just finished (Jhumpa Lahiri is scary talented). Maybe I’ll do a list of 2008’s Favorite Things before the year’s over. Maybe…that’ll be really hard.

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Indie movie

So if you’re looking for a film that ends with two naked people in a tub playing trumpets, I’ve got a recommendation for you. 🙂 Happy Sunday everybody. I have sooooo much work to do.

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I woke up this morning to several people texting me about snow in Nola. One said (after the excited expletives): “It’s snowing in New Orleans. Next up: Zombie Apocalypse.” Another, simply “Snow!” Have I ever said how much I love snow? I ran downstairs in my pjs, ridiculously underdressed, to gaze in stupefied joy at at the rather skimpy but still glorious covering of snow on the cars, trees and neutral ground in front of my house. W., my neighbor, came out, shivered and said glumly, “I just hope next year’s hurricane season isn’t awful. We had snow the Christmas before Katrina.” And a side affect of snow in Nola: sirens. People just do not know how to deal with driving on icy streets here, unfortunately. By the time I saw it, icy rain was beginning to disintegrate the snow on my car and the ground. But the fact of the matter, beyond all that, is that it SNOWED IN NEW ORLEANS TODAY and that makes me ridiculously happy. It finally feels like the Christmas season to me.

With that in mind, check out this video by Krista Detor that Dave sent me today. I fell in instant love. It’s not the actual video Dave sent, but one I found after watching the one he sent.

For the first time in a long time, I heard something last night that made me want to pray. I am not a religious person, but am still rather spiritual. And I heard a story that made me, not exactly pray, but wish fervently for something, for someone’s health, for the happiness and security of their family. It feels like a gift, the snow and the ability to want something ephemeral so badly for someone I’ve never met.

Here are some pictures of the snow (thanks to Jamey for making it possible for me to get them where I wanted in this post):

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Four years ago…

Today is an important and highly personal anniversary for me. So I’m going to have a happy vacation day and celebrate. Happy Sunday everybody.

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Some bad news

It’s a bad time of year for folks to be losing jobs, not that it’s every a good time. But we need to get this economy in shape fast.

This video got me. Read the article: ABC News: 533,000 Jobs Lost in November

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I love this city

“New Orleans ain’t a city, it’s a star.
It’s a home.”

Saw that in a public restroom today, the second part added by somebody else in different-colored ink. It’s in keeping with my own thoughts, feeling a resurge of my adoration of this city.

So Toni gave me some vital feedback on TCB that kind of forced some issues to a head, much like Jamey’s feedback at the beginning of this year did. How is it possible to get so entrenched in a massive book and forget what it’s actually about? So taking Toni’s “you have too many cats” comment to heart, I have to decipher what is the story and what is me “not trusting that the story and its emotions are enough and packing the book with more.” It feels like a house of cards to me, if I finagle out one character, subplot, issue, etc., the rest is going to come tumbling down.

There’s something I have to remember. When people ask me what my story is about, I’ve been saying, “it’s about the circus,” and that’s not true. The circus is a landscape of my book, as is New Orleans. But waaaaaay back in mid 2004, when the first recognizable inkling of this book (not counting my aborted story that I realized was a precursor) came to me, this is what came:

A woman is awake in bed next to her sleeping lover. She’s just found out that morning that she’s pregnant. She’s terrified and doesn’t know what to do. She climbs out of bed without disturbing him, packs a few things and leaves.

That’s what I’m writing about.

I was clearer about that last night when M. drove me around the French Quarter, the Marigny, the 9th Ward and Mid City looking for a good location for something important near the end of the book. It was amazing, as a writer and as a new local still breathlessly in love with her city, to take that ride.

But my favorite part of the evening, I have to say, was going to Parkway to get po’boys. A little while ago, M. and I had their roast beef po’boy at the Po’boy Festival and it was incredible. We only had one napkin between the two of us and we ate walking back to the car, getting messy, but eating greedily anyway. I raved about it here on the blog and I’ve been wanting to go to Parkway and have it again. Sometimes, when you have such an astounding food experience, it can’t be replicated and the food never lives up to that first time. That’s NOT the case here. I ordered the roast beef again and M. got the Thanksgiving Dinner po’boy (turkey, stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce) and we shared some sweet potato fries at the bar. It was a good choice to sit at the bar because the owner came by, chatted with us and seemed to enjoy watching us enjoy our food. I employed my super-secret turn-the-po’boy-over eating technique, but near the end, had to ditch the bread unfortunately and just finish the roast beef, as there wasn’t enough room for it all. M. quoted his friend, saying, “Go for the gusto.” We were too full to have dessert (and we’d scored some sweet potato pies from Hubig’s for later), but I asked the owner what he’d suggest we try next time we come. Perfect timing, it turns out, because his nephew came out of the kitchen with a rum cake they’d made by mistake for somebody. Hearing me ask his uncle about dessert recommendations, he said, “You can try this first,” and gave us the rum cake. So of course we had to try it! It was warm pound cake, soaked just right in rum and it was heavenly. We couldn’t finish it, of course, so I took it home (and you can bet it’s all gone now. Yum).

So today I’m trying to get back to my story, dreaming of rum cake and roast beef po’boys and idly asking myself, “Is New Orleans a star – celebrity or celestial object?”

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